Justin Normand woke up the morning after the election with the urge to “share peace with [his] neighbors,” he said.
So, the Dallas, Texas, man who manages a sign shop did what he could with the tools he had and made a sign that read: “You belong. Stay strong. Be blessed. We are one America.”
Then, he explained in a Facebook post, “I drove to the nearest mosque and stood out on the public sidewalk to share the peace with my neighbors. My marginalized, fearful, decent, targeted, Muslim neighbors.”
A photo of Normand standing in a cowboy hat holding the sign in front of the Islamic Center of Irving was posted on Twitter and Facebook and has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times.
“This is extraordinary and humbling; mainly because what I did isn’t (or shouldn’t be) all that extraordinary,” he wrote.
“For me, this wasn’t about expressing agreement; I remain Presbyterian, not Muslim,” the 53-year-old continued. “This was about binding up the wounded. About showing compassion and empathy for the hurting and fearful among us.”
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Normand said he feels like simple acts of support like his are necessary to protect “the American way of life” and urged others to follow suit.
“Targeting people for their religion not only threatens our way of life, it is the polar opposite of our way of life,” he wrote.
“Find a group marginalized by the haters in this current era we find ourselves in,” he continued. “Then, find a way to express your acceptance to that group in a physically present way, as opposed to a digital one.”
His message was met with warmth and appreciation — both in person and online. He told the Dallas News that he received “hospitality and love” from members of the Islamic center and an “avalanche” of support from strangers online.
Nick Pelletier, director of outreach for the Islamic Center of Irving, encountered Normand after he finished praying at the mosque on Saturday.
He recorded their conversation in a video he shared on Facebook. Pelletier began by asking Normand why he was there.
“I’m just here because somebody’s got to speak up and say you’re valued, you’re okay [and] you’re part of what’s going on here,” Normand says in the video.”This is why we do America. You’re not here in spite of it you’re here because of it.”
“What’s worse than the injustice is the people who are quiet during those times,” Pelletier responds. “They actually normalize that activity and those are the times we have to stand up and speak out.”
Normand urged his readers to take action to support others who feel threatened or marginalized. He concluded his Facebook post with the words inscribed on the Statue of Liberty.
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-[tossed] to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
“These words bespeak the America we all remember, know, love, and are still called upon to be. Especially now,” he wrote. “They need all of us. They need you. We ARE one America.”